If you are looking for a cricket book full of jaunty japes from a career in county cricket, full of anecdotes and whimsy, then this is not the book you are looking for. If however you would like to read one of the most open and honest and thought provoking books on the effect addiction and alcohol can have on the career and life of a county cricketer then look no further.
I believed every word Luke Sutton has put on every page, each one an insight into his mind, his thought process and the effect that his actions were having on him, his career and his family.
The book tracks Sutton’s life from his time travelling the world as a child following his dad’s job from Oman to Peru before starting his education at Millfield Preparatory School, through to his time at Somerset, Derbyshire, Lancashire and then his time in business where he works as a player agent and manager.
One thing every person who suffers with poor mental health has to do is reflect on their life and Sutton does this, acknowledging that his issues with addiction started way back as a child in Peru where he was a successful swimmer and became addicted to winning.
This addiction to winning drove Sutton throughout his career, demanding more and more from his body training harder and harder in response to his addiction to alcohol and the effect that it had on him mentally.
Binge drink followed by hard training followed by harder training session in response to the alcohol became the constant circle of shame that he had to battle. No more so than at the end of Derbyshire’s pre season tour to Portugal in 2003, where after nearly four months sober Sutton had a blow out night, punched team mate Liam Wharton in the face, ended up blacked out in a car park and then still drunk on the plane home. The effect this cycle had on his physical and mental health, he reflects on brutally honestly throughout the book.
The underlying theme throughout the book though is that Sutton got the help he needed, he spent time at the Priory and he underlines the impact that the doctors, counsellors and patients had on him and his recovery. He obviously changes the names of the people who had that impact on him but I am sure they know who they are and they are stronger than me if they didn’t shed a tear as they read about how they helped Sutton to recover.
For me the most interesting and telling sections of the book are where Sutton talks about the impact that the media and public expectation has on sports people. His discussion around Andrew Flintoff and the images of him following the 2005 Ashes winning series or Paul Gascoigne and his persona are thought provoking, the expectation around them to play up to those images or personas from the media cannot be underestimated. Then the chastising when things go wrong, is similar to the circle of shame that Sutton found himself in early in his career, building people up and then knocking them down due to alcohol, just as Sutton had done to himself.
Back from the Edge is not an easy read, it shouldn’t be, Sutton’s life with addiction was clearly not, He lost his wife, had his world shattered and nearly lost his life after all. However it is a brilliant read and one which will resonate with everyone, especially if they have had poor mental health themselves, or someone in their family has been troubled by the same issues as Sutton.
Quite simply everyone should read this book and Luke Sutton should be commended for his openness and honesty in writing it.